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Environmental Department To Focus On Water Quality, Park Upgrades

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection wants to focus on increasing water quality and upgrading state parks next year—if the Legislature grants a request for additional money.  The department also expects to sell $20 million worth of land as part of its 2014 spending plan.

The environmental department plans to spend the largest chunk of its money, $75 million, on what it calls “Governor Rick Scott’s signature Everglades restoration project.”  The second-largest expenditure is expected to be for conservation land—using $20 million in cash and another $20 million expected to come from the sale of non-conservation land.

Department Chief of Staff Lennie Zeiler sums up the priorities like this: “Those are regulatory consistencies and efficiencies, getting the water right and improving access to our state parks."

Out of $20 million requested for state park upgrades, a fifth would go toward creating easier access for people with disabilities. Wednesday’s money request also included $5 million more for springs restoration.

Zeiler pointed out, though, he expects most of the department’s additional money to come from BP oil spill fines distributed through the federal RESTORE Act.

Correction: A previous version of this story said DEP was planning to sell $20 million worth of conservation lands next year. The planned sales are in fact of non-conservation land.